Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Friends Who Drop By

     One of the things I love about Country living is the friendliness.  Your neighbors think nothing of dropping by and if invited, they'll stay for a bite to eat.  We have a whole host of  furred or feathered neighbors who come by at least once a day to visit the bird feeder, to have a drink or a swim, and maybe catch up on the Sheltie Hollow gossip.
I'm talking of course about the squirrels, the birds, and my particular favorites, the chipmunks.  They give us endless amusement with their antics and little scuffles, and all for the price of bird seed.  We have planted the garden with things they like to ear, and added a lot of trees for shelter over the years to make this a safe habitat for them, and they seem to like it here. We have a couple of  bird baths in the summer and we put out food all year round, and of course, our cat is an indoor sort of guy who does his bird watching from behind the sun room windows, so there is always someone dropping by.
This summer, we have a family of RAVENS, a first for us.  We feel very honored to think that these intelligent, beautiful birds have found our garden to their liking.  These birds are HUGE!  They are also very timid and polite, and will willingly eat beside the other birds, the squirrels and the chipmunks.

The Chipmunks and the Red Squirrels are not as polite, in fact, they wage a constant battle as to who will get to the feeder first. Sometimes there are fisticuffs, and other times, a truce is called.  There really is enough for all.

  These little characters often give me something to paint . . . just a whimsical  thought that they spark, that ends  up  as a "Biff and Jo-Jo" cartoon. I love doing them, and  People seem to enjoy these little  characters as much as I do.  Jo-Jo always seems to be playing tricks on Biff, just like their real life counterparts do - although the real little critters may not be quite as colorful. :0                                                                                                                               

Before I sign off for this week, I must add that we have some wonderful Human neighbors too !
Heather Anderson

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jungle Rhythms

Jungle rhythms, that what my garden looks like in July!  I look at the flowers that were neat, pretty, and in (mostly) weed free beds just a few short weeks ago, and shudder.  What happened?!

   It's July, with it's super heat, humidity and often very heavy rain.  I have to stay inside a lot to keep away from it, and the garden takes advantage.
Yes, I know the image is blurry, but that's the way the flowers strike me just now.  It's a jungle of blossoms and unidentified green things that I know in my gardener's heart are weeds, just waiting to effect a Coup.  It has it's own sort of wild beauty, but I'm going to have to sort this out the moment the heat turns down the broiler.
Life can be like that too, can't it?  Things pile up, crises happen, tempers stretch, and all of a sudden, everything is out of control.  When that happens, I am learning to treat it the same way I do the July garden.  First, I just hang in there as best I can and wait for an opportunity to start putting things in order.  Then I handle things, one at a time until life is running smoothly again. No one said it was going to happen over-night. It's a job and a half!
In the garden, the opportunity to get things sorted is coming little by little, day by day as the weather moderates, and by August, I can  get out there and really go head to head with the remaining weeds and over-grown flowers.  Soon things will be neat again, orderly, and with an August mellowness,  just the way I like them to be.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Sense of Self

I grew up being taught to never boast about my accomplishments, in fact, I wasn't even supposed to mention them.  Unfortunately, that stayed with me, muffling my Sense of Self until I almost didn't have one, and I can't think of anything that is of less service to an artist than self doubt and a natural inclination to NOT talk about themselves!  While I still find boasting about oneself  to be totally lacking in class, I have learned to let people know that "Hey, I'm an artist, I paint animals and I'm really good at it, and I've achieved some interesting things!"  To help me with this, I made a ME WALL some time ago that holds reminders for me of things that I have done.  Let me give you a quick and non-boastful tour.

This wall is in the studio near my art table and computer so I  see it every day.  It helps me remember that I have had magazine covers, that I've been juried into art shows, including the ART SHOW AT THE DOG SHOW, and have won Best Acrylic in Show at the EGYPTIAN EVENT at the Kentucky Horse Park.    I've had an article written about my work in a Swedish magazine, (and can't read of word of it!) and another one in The Equine Image magazine. Wow, That was a thrill!  And although you can't see it very well, the little photo at the bottom is of me with Robert Bateman.  I'll never forget that evening!!

This  page is also part of my ME WALL and it reminds me that I was chosen Artist of the Year in 2000 by the local branch of the Canadian Lung Association (I entered a painting in memory of a loved friend who died from lung disease and it was chosen for their fund raiser).  It reminds me that my work appeared in a French Equine Art publication (located in the South of France) and that I was the Official Artist for a Canadian Symphony of Horses.  Have  you been to a Symphony of Horses?  It's an evening of  horses and light classical music - Magical!  It reminds me that I was invited to Arabia to exhibit my Arabian paintings, and although I didn't go, it was memorable just being invited.  I also have a couple of things to remind me of the One Woman Shows I've done and of the  painting that one of the galleries acquired while I was there.  I've done many shows over the years, and at least three of them were Solo exhibits.  But a One Woman Show is a huge amount of work, and it costs a lot to do.  I'm glad I did them, they were really exciting, and a big boost to the ego,  but I'm not sure I'd want that responsibility or expense again.  But never say never!  Hanging beside this page, there's a quarter page clipping from the Ottawa newspaper reporting my involvement in the The Horse Gift Mural.  All of these things are reminders that I've been on an interesting path and have accomplished a number of successes in my art career to date, and I'm not finished yet!  Who knows what's just round the corner.
If you are the sort to doubt yourself from time to time, try going through your old papers and photos and placing a record of your success up where you can see them every day.  It does wonders for your sense of Self.
Heather Anderson

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Behind the Paintbrush

So,  how does a painting begin, anyway?  Unless it's a commission, I need to start with an idea, and I get my ideas by going out into the field with my cameras to take photographs.  I've taken hundreds and hundreds of photos.  Sometimes the conditions are great, like a mini vacation, and other times they are not the best - freezing cold, way too hot, or pouring rain.  This past weekend we were at a wonderful Dog Facility about an hour from home, where they had a demonstration of a new dog sport called DOCK DOGS.  Although the sport was exciting,  the thing I wanted was the opportunity to photograph dogs jumping into water.  What's a series of Retriever paintings without at least one image of dogs going "splash!"  As luck would have it, there was water everywhere, a real downpour, and we got thoroughly wet.  My husband ran around after me, holding an umbrella over my head so that the cameras wouldn't get wet.  The cameras stayed pretty dry.  I didn't.  But I got some great shots, that I will start using soon.
Sometimes I have/want to photograph an animal that has a big voice, big teeth, and isn't really inclined to pose.   So I do what I do with permission, and as quietly, calmly, and quickly as possible, as long as the owner is right there. Read that again - it's important!  An animal bite can be nasty and is to be avoided at all costs.    I have to say though, that a couple of big toothed, big voiced  dogs I photographed recently were great - very  nicely behaved- it was the Miniature Pinscher that bit me several times!  Photographing animals sometimes involves a bit of calculated risk - it should NEVER involve a big one!!.
 In a controlled situation, I've stood in a field while the owner of a small herd of quiet, people friendly horses  sent them running straight at me just so I could get some good shots of horses running head-on.  I was pretty sure (and was assured) they would swing out and go around me, and but I kept my eye on them and my wits about me while I was out in front of them.  It's just a bit intimidating to see 6 or 8 horses coming at you full speed, and I remember hoping that I knew what I was doing. But I had done my research, the owner was there, and  I  felt it was a small risk.
Oh,  lets not forget the 8' python!  I'm scared spitless of serpents.  But I had a chance to photograph a Friesian stallion and the only little wrinkle was that I had to walk between the crowd of onlookers and the python around the owner's neck to get the shots.  Somehow, I managed to cowgirl up and do it. Once!
When I'm out photographing, I always make sure that I'm having fun, not getting in anyone's way or distracting an animal  if they are working.  I make sure I keep out of  trouble. A mild, calculated risk (like getting soaked, or splashed with unmentionable stuff) is OK, a big dangerous one is not.  Animal artists have died in pursuit of that one GREAT photo, and a photo is never worth risking your life or  getting injured.  My motto is 'Have fun, be careful, and live to snap another day.'

                                                                                         photo courtesy of Penny Sisson

Heather Anderson

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I've been spending quite a bit of time in the garden lately, getting the weeds before they get me.  It's one of the unlovely chores that must be done, but I confess, I have to drag myself by the collar to get out there and do it.  And the flowers are SO ungrateful!  I end up with scratches, cuts and bruises, and I limp in, declaring that I am finished for the season, yet the next time I walk along one of the paths and see a weed, I feel compelled to reach in and yank it out.  I remember one totally embarrassing day when the weed won and dragged me head first into the Bee Balm.  Oh, I HOPE no one saw me!
And Roses are plain and simply malicious Divas.  No matter how much I weed, feed, and coddle, they reach out to snare me with their thorns, tearing my clothes and my skin.  And  they do it because they know they can.  With their beauty and glorious scent, I'll never send them packing.
I plant things that I love to look at , love to have scenting the air, and flowers that will make nice backgrounds in paintings.  Thoughts about painting are never far away.

It strikes me that a garden is an Allegory of Life.  You need to be careful what you put in it.  Plant a bully of a flower or neglect a weed so that it takes over, and it's the same as letting people into your life who will verbally bully you and fill your head with negative thoughts - "no you can't, no you aren't"  and pretty soon, it's as if you were wrapped in bindweed, you just can't move forward with your life.  But plant beautiful things, nurture them, and love them, and pretty soon they will bloom, just as we do when we are surrounded by supportive, loving friends.  A garden and life both take a lot of work, but if you plant carefully and work hard, and  have faith,  your garden and your life will be beautiful. At least, that's my thought.

Heather Anderson